Tourism. It’s a funny old game and ever since London 2012 I’ve become even more aware of how our capital is bending and changing to meet the needs of an ever lucrative tourist market. Perhaps I’m over sensitised to it, but with families and the average joe not really getting out and about to see what is on their own back doorstep, London is looking further afield to attract visitors to it’s slightly overcast shores.
And that my friends, is where The Shard comes in.
Described as an iconic, landmark building, it has indeed been long awaited – I’ve watched curiously as it has been built over the years, wondering what they would make of the very peak. Designed by Master Architect Renzo Piano, it has a height of 1,016ft (310m), making it the tallest building in Western Europe. In fact it is fair to say that The Shard redefines London’s skyline and will be one of those things popping up on London postcards for years to come.
With some spare time off and a desire to do the tourist on your own doorstep thing, I decided to pay it a visit. I do like London things, and I thought it would make a nice thing to try out – until of course, I looked at the price. The Shard is definitely NOT pitching towards average families and locals then eh? At £25.95 a pop for adults and £19.95 for children (if bought in advance) for what is essentially a view I was a little staggered. But, ever curious I paid my money to try it out. For that price, I was expecting big things.
Upon arrival, we were greeted and sent to the main desk (and gift shop, natch) to wait for our “flight”. The process was slick, the building looked good and it was…empty. Must be those darn ticket prices! So we popped to the loo (they make a mahousive deal about you going before you get up The Shard, so we heeded all advice on this one) and set about getting up to the top.
This is where things start to get eerily familiar. If you’ve ever done the Empire State Building, the whole process of getting up in two very very quick lifts, the queuing process and the information they give you is exactly the same. They’ve definitely been more than a little inspired by their NYC cousins, and that is ok, because the Empire State Building is cool. And significantly cheaper I might add.
Once you’ve belted up 68 floors to the first viewing platform you are basically on your own. It sort of feels like wandering around an art gallery that is that clean and spacious, but instead of pictures you have London all around you. Now I won’t lie, for the first 10 minutes I got super excited. I was running (no, wandering) around taking photos and eagerly pointing out landmarks left right and centre. It was fun. For 10 minutes.
We headed upstairs to the top platform where you are essentially outside but surrounded by glass and I went round and looked at the same things again. The view hadn’t changed much, obviously. The weather was balls (however this did make everything look like it was from Lord of The Rings which was kind of cool) and I wandered around because I’d paid a lot of money to be there and so I thought I should spend longer.
You are totally surrounded by glass instead of railings which makes photography difficult and there isn’t any information telling you what you are looking at or any history. That would have improved the experience immeasurably. I really loved the Empire State when I did it, but that had a great exhibition about how it was built and it felt more of an experience. The Shard? It feels a bit like a very swishy, half-arsed copy.
For £25 I wanted and expected more. Sure I got some pretty pictures out of it, but that is the least I would expect. We were funnelled out back through the overpriced gift shop, which was indeed the icing on the cake. Check this out if you like views and photography but please please wait for the inevitable Groupon deal to pop up and save yourself some pennies! Or, book a table at any of the restaurants within A View From The Shard London and get the view for free whilst you dine.